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There are three ways to experience the Spanish Riding School: the full performance, the tour and the morning exercises.
While the full performance is clearly the star of the show, many like to also witness the less structured morning exercises. Just like any other athletes, the stallions and their riders practice a wide variety of exercises every day, so you’re always guaranteed some variety. The luckiest viewers will be able to see some of the most advanced movements performed in the Spanish Riding School.
If you’d like something more structured and focused on the amazing history of the institution, the Spanish Riding School Tour is a perfect choice. The tours offer an in-depth look at the 450 years of history the Spanish Riding School has to share. From the fascinating origins of the Lipizzan breed to the story of the horses' stunning 17th-century Baroque home, there’s plenty to grab the attention of any visitor. It’s a must-see on any visit to Vienna.
In addition to the morning exercises and general guided tours, there are many special events on offer at the Spanish Riding School. Often these are special collaborations, like the “Tribute to Vienna,” featuring eight members of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, or the Vienna Boys’ Choir.
The Spanish Riding School in Vienna is the oldest riding academy in the world, and the only one where classical horsemanship of the Renaissance is still cultivated. The school is called "Spanish" because of the Spanish horses, which performed in the early days of the riding school. Today's Lipizzaner stallions are the descendants of this proud Spanish breed, a cross between Spanish, Arabian and Berber horses.
Believe it or not, the stunning precision and fine horsemanship on display at the Spanish Riding School today traces its lineage back to a book by the Greek writer Xenophon 2,500 years ago. From there, the history and traditions of this fine institution only become more interesting and surprising.
The Spanish Riding School possesses a formidable history. Beginning during the Renaissance, when the knowledge of the classic world was rediscovered, the earliest iteration of the Spanish Riding School was created in 1565 with the explicit aim of raising the finest war horses in the world for the armies of the Hapsburgs.
However, following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the aftermath of the First World War, keeping this gem of Austrian culture restricted to the elite was untenable. In 1920, the first public performances in more than 350 years began. But further challenges awaited.
In the chaotic aftermath of the Second World War, the famous horses had been scattered throughout Europe. It took tremendous efforts to ensure the school would survive and that its stallions would be returned.
Now, thanks to all those who fought to save it, the Spanish Riding School remains a cornerstone of Viennese culture and history, progressing alongside the city as it accepted its first female riders in 2008.